Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Category: Dream Humor

Turning the Dream Upside Down

upside down 01If I start with some straightforward approaches to dreamwork (see “Two Basic Dreamwork Skills”), I can learn a lot about dreams. But I can learn a lot more if I’m willing to turn the dream upside down, or inside out—to spin it, flip it, and toss it around a bit.

Actually, it’s not the dream that needs to be turned upside down, it’s the dreamworker. Have you heard the Nietzsche quote: “If you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes back”? In order to see the whole dream in all its multifaceted dynamic transpersonal splendor, I have to suspend my own habitual patterns of thought, stand on my head, and take a new look at the dream—until I can see the dream looking back at me. Like a mirror, the dream shows me a reversed image of myself, and more than myself. Continue reading

Wishful Dreaming

It’s about time to leaven these blog posts again, with a little light poetry. But writing limericks about dreams and dreaming is more difficult than you might think! I took a walk with a notebook in my pocket, and worked on rhymes and rhythms in my head (I hope I wasn’t doing it out loud!)—and scribbled down lines I thought were going somewhere clever, but then they turned out to be nothing but stray couplets without any dream scheme to come home to. Sigh. This is my best effort, for the time being:

A middle-school history teacher
dreamed of going where the kids couldn’t reach her:
joined in cosmic space walks,
took the lead in peace talks,
climbed K2 with a yeti-like creature…

Okay, so I made up the dreamer, and the dreams. But I’m playing with words and ideas here, while trying to remain resolutely silly—not so easy! The idea I’m making fun of is that dreams express our secret wishes—a theory suggested by serious people like Freud (who described the intricate mechanisms at work in the dreaming mind to simultaneously reveal and disguise our desires), and then turned into cartoons (where kids dream of mountains of candy…) and limericks by folks like me who don’t take the wish-fulfilling dream theory terribly seriously.

Sometimes I have beautiful, wish-fulfilling dreams—but rarely when I feel I really need them! When daily life is tough, and the increasing darkness, dampness, and chilliness of this season is getting to me, I often just dream of dark, damp, and cold. Where are those sweet dreams of Maui—full of warm, fragrant breezes, waves softly lapping the beaches, and whales playing just offshore? Oh well. At least I can imagine that my intrepid middle-school history teacher has a more pleasing dream life. Continue reading

Does Dream Incubation Have To Be Hard Work?

guardian cowIf your project is dream incubation,
You must limit crude sense-stimulation.
Be calm and serene,
Conscientious and clean,
And refrain from excess celebration.

(I was going to end the limerick with an exclamation point, but that might have been “excess celebration.” )


“Dream incubation” is the process of cultivating a “good” dream by preparing oneself in various ways before sleep. The desired dreams may be spiritual “dreams of power,” predictive dreams, healing dreams, or dreams that will give responses to particular problems or questions. In any case, ancient rituals from many cultures generally involved purification (washing, fasting, etc.), prayers, offerings, visualizations, sleeping in a sacred place (such as a temple or grove), and other practices. A very serious business. Continue reading

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